Advocates call for incinerator shutdown after new allegations surface

Posted at 9:52 PM, Sep 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-18 08:48:15-04

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- Clean air advocates demanded Gov. Gary Herbert shutdown the medical waste incinerator Stericycle on Wednesday, after an anonymous whistleblower came forward with new allegations against the company.

According to an interview done by EnviroNews, a former employee of the plant claims staff instructed them to illegally incinerate radioactive waste and tamper with scales to alter the record of how much waste was being burned.

Members of Communities for Clean Air and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment met outside the Governor’s office to play the interview.  They believe the claims should be enough evidence to get the governor to shut the plant down, which is located in North Salt Lake.

“I can tell you that the Governor is very serious about air quality issues. He’s very serious about public health and safety, so if they’re found to be in violation or doing something outside the bounds of their permit, clearly there will consequences to follow,” said Marty Carpenter, the Communications Director for the governor’s office.

According to Carpenter, their office learned of the accusations on Tuesday and sat down with advocates the following morning.  The Division of Environmental Quality is now looking into the claims.

“Governor Herbert takes these claims, these allegations, very seriously. We want to look into them as quickly and efficiently as possible to see if there is any validity to them,” said Carpenter. “If they turn out to be true, then obviously we have a situation that needs to be addressed. But the first step is to make sure they are investigated appropriately.”

Currently, Stericycle is disputing a case brought by DEQ, which contends the plant violated emission standards and doctored records back in 2011-2012.  The case is to go before an administrative judge.

In response to the new allegations, Stericycle will conduct its own investigation.

“While we take seriously and review any claim of deviation from our operating procedures, we believe many of the claims made in the interview are not feasible due to the numerous monitoring systems and procedures in place, the contractual arrangements we have with our customers, and the regulatory oversight at the North Salt Lake facility. We are, nonetheless, undertaking our own investigation of the allegations,” said Jennifer Koenig, vice president of corporate communications for the company.

If the governor does not act, clean air groups plan to stage a protest outside the facility next week.